A Segulah From Eliyahu To Protect From Evil Thoughts
I saw the following thought in the Sefer Tiferes Torah from Rav Shimshon Dovid Pinkus, of Blessed Memory, who was tragically killed in a car accident on the 11th of Nissan. I share this thought in honor of his Yahrtzeit.
The Shalo”h Hakodosh (Shaar haOsiyos 30) writes in the name of Rav Moshe Cordevero (1522-1570) that he once heard from an elderly Jew that an effective method (segulah) for removing forbidden thoughts from one’s mind is to repeat the following pasuk [verse] over and over: “The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it, it shall not be extinguished.” [Vayikra 6:6]. The Shalo”h comments that he is sure that the “elderly Jew” who Rav Moshe Cordevero heard this from was the prophet, Eliyahu [Elijah]. However, due to Rav Cordevero’s great modesty, he did not want to reveal the true source, since that would have revealed that he was worthy of conversing with Eliyahu.
However, what does this pasuk have to do with forbidden thoughts?
Rav Pinkus addresses this question by reference to a comment of Rabbeinu Bechayeh on this week’s parsha. Rabbeinu Bechayeh cites the pasuk in Proverbs: “Let your feet be scarce in your fellow’s house, lest he be satiated with you and come to hate you.” [Mishlei 25:17] This is a poetic way of expressing the often heard idea that it is unwise to wear out one’s welcome in his friend’s home. Too much of a good thing is not good. Even the best of friends can get tired of each other if they are always in each other’s houses. The Rabbeinu Bechayeh then quotes a Gemara [Chagiga 7a] which says that this pasuk refers to the Beis HaMikdash. The intent is that one should make himself scarce in the Beis HaMikdash, meaning that he should not have a frequent need to bring Sin Offerings and Guilt Offerings (which may only be brought in the Beis HaMikdash). However, the Gemara says, that it is permissible to bring Olah offerings as often as a person wants – citing the pasuk in Tehillim: “I will enter Your House with burnt offerings; I will fulfill to You my vows.” [Tehillim 66:13]
Rabbeinu Bechaye explains the difference between a Sin Offering and an Olah offering. The sin offering (korban chatas) comes from [unintentional} violation of prohibited actions. A korban olah, on the other hand, atones for improper thoughts. Improper thoughts, Rabbeinu Bechaye explains, is something that a person can never totally escape from. Unfortunately, they are very prevalent and they are more prevalent at night than during the daytime. It is for this reason that the Olah offerings are to burn the entire night. Night time is the time when people especially need atonement from improper thoughts. About this it is written: “Command Aaron and his sons, saying: This is the law of the burnt-offering: It is the burnt-offering that stays on the flame, on the altar, all night until the morning, and the fire of the Altar should be kept aflame on it.” [Vayikra 6:2]
Now we know what Eliyahu meant when he told Rav Moshe Cordevero that the segulah for ridding oneself of evil thoughts is recitation of the pasuk at the end of the chapter on burnt offerings: “The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it, it shall not be extinguished.” [Vayikra 6:6]
Just as we say that one who recites the pasukim associated with the sacrifices is credited (nowadays) as if he brought that offering, so too if one recites this pasuk from the section of the Korban Olah (burnt offering), it is as if he brought a burnt offering and he thereby receives the segulah associated with the Korban Olah – namely protection from evil thoughts.
Now, I shared this vort after shul with a few men whom I thought would appreciate it, and our conversations afterward revealed the following:
A) The Gemorrah Berachos speaks out that one of the eitzas to protect from the yetzar hora (I believe it's referring specifically to improper thoughts and being motzei zera in one's sleep), is to repeat the pasuk we say in Keriyah Shema Al HaMitta "Rigzu v'al techata'u" - "Tremble and do not sin..." However, that is immediately before sleep for a protectzia at night. THIS segulah mentioned above is for ANY TIME of day when one is confronted by an improper thought.
B) The first Bach in the Tur on the sugyah of Kavanna by davenning (I forget the siman - Tzaddi-something) brings proof from the Gemorrah Berachos that WE are not in control of our own thoughts. Since we could not have kavanna by davenning without siyatta dishomaya, we need to SURRENDER our thoughts to Hashem and ask HIM to control them so we can daven. The Bach refers to this surrender as being Machniyah to allow Hashem to control your thoughts.
C) We know from our Program of Recovery that we can practice SURRENDERING our improper thoughts to Hashem, saying "I surrender these lustful (or angry or vengeful or selfish, etc.) thoughts to You, I don't want them - I certainly don't need them - PLEASE remove these obsessive thoughts this moment from me, so that I may serve you properly."
D) We also know that Hashem does everything B'Tzineh, hiddenly, so rather than dwelling on the thought to wait to see Him remove it, we must turn our focus to something else, distracting ourselves if you will from that thought to give Hashem room to remove it "behind the scenes."
E) The Rambam says that the antidote to improper thoughts is to focus one's mind on Torah Learning, the kedusha of the Torah will help push those thoughts away. As one of my friends, a noted talmud chacham and speaker, said this morning: Torah is after all called the Aish Dos, and an ALL CONSUMING FIRE, so after reciting that the Aish on the mizbayach should be kept burning continually, keep the Aish on the Mizbayach in your heart burning stronger by learning at that moment.
NOW we can put it all together in a step-by-step approach:
Any time when improper thoughts obsess you,
1) Repeat the pasuk Eliyahu HaNavi recommended (Vayikra 6:6) - perhaps 3 times.
2) Surrender the thought, and ask Hashem, as we mentioned, to remove it from you.
3) Immediately focus your mind on learning Torah: Do a mental chazarah on something you learned recently or recite some mishnayos, learn a halacha, etc.
Hashem WILL remove the thought, as long as you REALLY want to let it go. GUARANTEED.